Opinion

IN EDUCATION: ‘Mother Road’ still has much to offer

<p>Route 66 badge painted on the road near Daggett, California.</p> -

Route 66 badge painted on the road near Daggett, California.

— image credit:

Since last I wrote, I have travelled all of Route 66.

From Santa Monica, Calf. to Chicago, Ill., my family and I have witnessed the best that the 'Mother Road' has to offer– kitschy Americana, genuine history, and more than a few ghost towns.

Since the route has ended, next I'll be making my way through Iowa, North Dakota, and Montana, into Alberta. From there we will be seeing some Canadian National Parks.

My favourite part of Route 66 was Oatman, Arizona. The section of Route 66 that leads to Oatman is treacherous, and in many places offered mere inches of clearance between our SUV and a canyon.

The view was amazing.

Once we reached the small town, it was immediately apparent that it was worth the drive. Oatman is a town overrun by burros. The feral burros are the descendants of burros released by miners in the 1800s, when the local gold mines were exhausted.

The burros are feral, and they wander into town for one reason: food.

Most stores in Oatman sell "Burro Food," which is usually alfalfa cubes or horse treats. The burros ate right out of the palm of my hand. Even the dominant jack, a small burro named Duke, renowned for his hijinks, was gentle.

Aside from the burros, Oatman was a small town, made up of one street with some little shops. The town was full of boarded-up stores.

En route, I saw many abandoned buildings, some lying in ruin. It was a common theme along the road.

Route 66 goes through some big cities – Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Amarillo, St. Louis, Chicago. It also traverses small towns. Some of those, such as Shamrock, Texas have survived the implementation of the Interstate and capitalize on their relationship to the old road.

Shamrock features a beautifully restored Conoco Service Station right next to the historic U-Drop Inn Café. The buildings now house a museum and gift shop.

However, many historic landmarks have not been so fortunate. These are the sections of the road immortalized by the fictional "Radiator Springs" in the movie Cars.

Towns that once hosted iconic neon signs, diners, motels, and gas stations were totally abandoned– all because of a road.

When the new Interstate superhighway by-passed communities (and even the entire state of Kansas), it cut off the lifeblood of many of the inhabitants of Route 66.

The final section of it was decommissioned in 1985. In New Mexico, there was a remnant of Route 66 so worn through that it had become a dusty gravel track through cornfields.

Yet, for every town abandoned, there was one still kicking. We stopped in Erick, Oklahoma to grab some snacks and we wandered into The Sandhills Curiosity Shop.

As the ancient screen door squeaked open, we were greeted by the sound of guitar music fed through a vintage amp.

After staggering through an amazing volume of Route 66 memorabilia (all of which was the real McCoy), we realized that the music wasn't a recording – it was the owner, Mr. Harley Russell playing live.

Harley was welcoming – he embodied tenacious, vibrant nature of the towns that remain on the route. He invited my younger brother and I to take our picture with the first Route 66 sign to be erected in Oklahoma; it was a wonderful experience.

From Los Angeles to Chicago, there are thousands tiny, interesting towns off the Interstate, living along pieces of the old track of Route 66.

Anyone thinking of planning a Route 66 trip should try their best to get to all of the little places. They were my favourites – towns and cities clinging to the remnants of the Mother Road, which still has much to offer the weart traveller.

Marlowe Evans is a senior student at Thomas Haney secondary who is writing weekly about her famiily

summer vacation.

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